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The Oak Maiden

 

The Oak Maiden

 

By Natalie Panasiewicz

Copyright 2016 Natalie Panasiewicz

Shakespir Edition

 

 

Shakespir Edition, License Notes

Thank you for downloading this ebook. This book remains the copyrighted property of the author, and may not be redistributed to others for commercial or non-commercial purposes. If you enjoyed this book, please encourage your friends to download their own copy from their favourite authorised retailer. Thank you for your support.

 

This book is a work of fiction. The names, characters, places and incidents are products of the writer’s imagination or have been used fictitiously and are not to be construed as real. Any resemblance to persons, living or dead, actual events, locales or organisations is entirely coincidental.

 

All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced, scanned or distributed in any manner whatsoever without written permission from the author except in brief quotation in critical articles and reviews.

 

Cover Art by Kirsty Linkston of Perthspective Photography in collaboration with Jesse Boothey

Table of Contents

The Oak Maiden

Acknowledgements

About the Author

 

Brighid lay within her oaken bower, cushioned by emerald moss and yellowed lichen. She kicked her feet lazily as she drank in the first glimmering rays of dawn that pierced the canopy. As the forest began to fill with the chatter of newly awoken creatures, Brighid leapt down from her seat in the oak and made her way towards a nearby spring, humming softly under her breath.

At the spring’s edge, Brighid reached for the hem of her shift and slowly pulled it over her head, her burnished curls cascading down her back to tangle about her slim waist. With little hesitation, she stepped into the stream and submerged herself to her shoulders, teeth chattering slightly. As her limbs became numb from cold, Brighid dunked her head beneath the surface and began the arduous task of washing her hair.

Whilst submerged, a sudden hush descended upon the forest. The euphonious calls of birds and intermittent chatter of forest folk had fallen silent, retreating within their burrows or behind leaves and branches. Brighid breached the surface of the stream, her emerald eyes narrowed. She quickly finished her bath, and pulled her shift back over her head, not noticing how enticingly the fabric clung to every damp dip and curve. On silent feet, Brighid returned to her oak and steadily, from years of practice, clambered up into the safety of her beloved oak, where she hid herself amongst the branches that were thick with foliage.

Seconds dragged by and Brighid’s ears began to ring fiercely with the weight of the silence. Eventually her vigilance was rewarded when she heard the crackle of twigs nearby. A moment later a twig snapped beneath the heavy tread of a boot. Brighid peered between the leaves, silently moving them aside. Just as she was about to turn away, he appeared from amongst the bushes.

The huntsman was clad in a simple green tunic which clung to a yellowed linen shirt. A belt sat upon his narrow waist that emphasised muscular legs encased within soft leather breeches. In one hand he carried a strung bow and in the other an arrow. A full quiver hung casually over his shoulder. He crept towards the oak, occasionally brushing away strands of hair that had escaped the tie at the nape of his neck. He came to a stop beneath Brighid, looking about the silent glade. With a suddenness that shocked Brighid, he looked up. She gasped as the huntsman trained an arrow upon her. Lightning fast, she leaped between the branches. An arrow whizzed past her cheek, and embedded itself into the branch where she had perched mere seconds before.

A moment passed, vibrating with anxiety. With trembling fingers Brighid brushed away the damp stands of hair which clung to her flushed cheeks. In the distance she could hear the rapid movement of a herd of deer. In the next instant she caught the stumble of a light footed doe, and wondered if it had lost to the hunter. Turning away, Brighid began to climb down the neighbouring spruce she had flung herself into. Checking for the huntsman, she leapt into her oak and settled into a comfortable nook made from a slight dip in a branch. Despite the fear that still fluttered about in her stomach, Brighid felt her eyes grow leaden and was soon sound asleep.

***

She awoke again when the sun had reached its zenith. Stretching her aching limbs, she listened. The forest lay quiet; the threat was still within its confines. Cautiously, she began to hum. The gentle notes reached into burrows, between the branches and leaves and called forth the forest folk. As the noise of the forest returned, the hum changed to a throbbing note, then into an aching song. Little did Brighid know that her song travelled to not only the denizens of her forest, but also into the curved ear of the huntsman, who worked upon the doe he had shot. Securing his prize, the huntsman went in search for the source of the song.

So focused was she on her music, that Brighid failed to hear the huntsman’s approach until he stood beneath her oak.

“Hello up there!” interrupted a smooth, masculine voice. Brighid fell silent and made to escape into the neighbouring spruce before the huntsman called out.

“Easy, little fairy. I bring ye’ no harm,” he called to her. Still, Brighid remained rigid where she perched. “Won’t ye’ come down?”

She peered down at the hunter. A frown marred her delicate brow as she bit her lip.

“I won’t,” she responded eventually. The huntsman dropped his bow to the ground and removed his quiver before sitting, leaning his broad back against the oak’s wide trunk.

“So be it,” he murmured, and by all appearances, fell asleep. Brighid waited a long moment, before moving to perch directly above the huntsman. Seeing that he had not moved, she slowly clambered down the tree. The huntsman, upon hearing her soft tread, opened one hooded, brown eye and grinned. Brighid raised a brow in response.

“I’d ask you what brings you to this forest, but it’s fair obvious,” she said, nodding to the bow and quiver. The huntsman’s grin grew wider.

“But why, pray tell, are ye’ here, mistress? Surely a husband and bairn await ye’ by yer hearth?” Brighid shook her head, her hair swaying behind her in a russet curtain, glints of copper glinting in the dappled sun.

“This is my home, huntsman,” Brighid answered sternly, “and I would urge you to return to yours, before dark comes.” The huntsman nodded blankly.

“Ye live nearby, then?” he murmured.

Brighid looked at the man with a slight smirk tainting her lips.

“In a matter of speaking.”

The huntsman nodded, and slowly rose to his feet. The sun had begun its descent, and would soon disappear behind the hills altogether.

“I should be headin’ off then. Good day t’ye, mistress.” He murmured, before turning around and sauntering off.

***

The next morning, as Brighid once more lazed in her oaken bower, she heard the crack of twigs underfoot. The huntsman soon entered the small clearing around her oak and grinned up at her. Instead of quiver and bow in hand, he carried a small bouquet of wildflowers.

“Good day, sweet fairy! These here be for ye’,” his melodious voice, smooth and sure, floated up to her. Hesitating, Brighid eventually clambered down the tree, gingerly taking the flowers from the huntsman.

“I thank you.”

With a feral smile, the huntsman reached for Brighid’s hand and pulled her towards him, trapping her against his chest. Brighid struggled against him, but his grip was a vice about her torso. She peered up into his eyes, searching for the charismatic man from the day before. Instead she glimpsed an odd glint within his dull brown orbs, hidden within their shadows.

“Come back with me, fairy,” he panted into her hair, “be m’wife.”

Brighid shook her head, still struggling to pull herself free.

“I cannot,” she panted. The huntsman grimaced, tightening his grip before abruptly letting her go.

“I really cannot, huntsman,” she pleaded, “I cannot wander too far from this forest.”

He remained silent for a moment, watching her with eyes that no longer held even a flicker of warmth.

“Are ye’ cursed then, fairy? To this tree?”

“In a matter of speaking,” she murmured, “I cannot wed you now, nor soon, nor ever.” He drew away from her, stung.

“Then this is farewell?” he asked, voice sullen.

“I suppose it is.”

The huntsman gave a quick nod, and left the glade with nary a glance behind him; the crushed flowers he’d gifted her mere moments ago lay scattered at her feet.

As the light of the full moon pierced the canopy, Brighid awoke from her fitful slumber. She rubbed her tired eyes, and eventually flung an arm over her face, attempting to block out the bright light of the moon shining in her eyes. An insistent breeze blew through the canopy, pricking at her skin. Something is coming, the wind whispered, yet Brighid could do little to fight the pull of slumber that had suddenly fallen upon her.

***

She was suddenly woken to a violent shuddering beneath her. She felt pain flare in her side, and looked down between the branches. The huntsman had returned. The light of dawn had barely begun to kiss the dew soaked ground below, yet it glinted coldly against the axe that protruded from the trunk of her beloved oak.

“No!” she sobbed. The huntsman ignored her, pulling the axe free from the tree’s torso, only to swing it again. The oak shuddered as Brighid screamed, her side ablaze now in pain. The huntsman struck, a moan spilling forth from the trunk as it swayed precariously. The huntsman looked up at Brighid, his eyes glinting coldly in the morning light.

“Come down, m’love,” he cooed, “ye’ll be free.” Brighid sobbed, covering her face with trembling hands as tears flowed freely from her eyes. The oak beneath her swayed again, urging her to leave her beloved home. She adamantly refused, clinging tightly to its gnarled trunk. The tree dipped and swayed, shuddering as if it too was in immense pain. Again the oak dipped towards the ground, pleading for Brighid to release her grip; to run, to escape.

She dropped from the branch like a stone, landing in an unceremonious heap by the oak’s roots. The huntsman, seeing that his victory was near at hand, gave a final vicious pull to free his axe, then brought it against the trunk of Brighid’s beloved oak one last time. Brighid screamed in agony as the tree gave a precarious wobble, before crashing to the forest floor. Before Brighid’s eyes, her beloved oak seemed to curl in upon itself, the once verdant leaves turning yellow, then crimson and finally a lifeless brown. Brighid remained where she lay, too weak to lift herself from the skeleton of her home. Yet the huntsman, despite the weak protests spilling from her wilted lips, pulled Brighid to her feet, and began to drag her through her beloved forest. Weak with pain and loss, Brighid could do little more than keep putting one foot in front of the other.

At the edge of the forest Brighid shuddered, before crumpling to the forest floor. The huntsman pulled at her, yet she had become rooted to the ground; mouth open in a soundless wail. Slowly, a gentle light began to emanate from her core, her limbs glimmering and vanishing in the golden light of dawn. The light slowly dissipated and all that was left of his fiery maiden was a small copper leafed sprout that stretched to drink from the light of day.

###

Acknowledgements

I’d like to give a big thank you to my parents who have been the biggest rocks throughout my life. Without your support, I probably wouldn’t be here writing this. I’d also like to thank all my friends who helped this piece come to life and kept me sane during the editing and re-writing process. And, of course, a huge thank you to Kirsty, Jesse, Shannon and Taylah for your flexibility, patience and skill when working with me on the front cover. It turned out amazing guys, thank you for all your hard work. Lastly, I would like to acknowledge the YouTube user Erutan, whose ballad, The Willow Maid, inspired this work.

About the Author

Born in 1995 in Perth, Western Australia, Natalie spent most of her childhood travelling between Perth and Poland, and also the northern reaches of Western Australia. Currently she is completing a degree in Writing, with a minor in children’s literature. She divides her time between studying, reading, immersing herself in nature, and admiring her crystal babies. She would, if she were honest, call herself a crazy crystal lady and could go on for hours talking about all the different crystals she has in her collection. She currently resides in Perth with her youthful and eccentric parents and her 2 gorgeous cats who have very unoriginal names.


The Oak Maiden

The Oak Maiden tells the story of of an enigmatic, tree dwelling heroine and an encounter with a huntsman in her forest home, who brings peril right to her doorstep. Yet Brighid is no simpering young maid, naive to the ways of men. How will she react to an aggressive suitor who threatens the safety of not only herself but her forest home? When her very existence is threatened, what will this Oak Maiden do? Filled with floral and expressive language, this story is sure to take you on a sensational journey in the footsteps of the oak-bound maiden.

  • Author: Natalie Panasiewicz
  • Published: 2016-10-28 07:50:10
  • Words: 2187
The Oak Maiden The Oak Maiden